Last week’s recitation focused on the increasingly blurry line between independent and studio filmmakers during the 1990’s. Class began with a scene from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, after which a question was posed pertaining to whether Lynch himself is independent. After all, his films are far more surreal and complex than the average studio blockbuster and certainly don’t cater to the casual moviegoer. However, he is still a man who has achieved a multitude of critical and financial success over the years, and there are many other independents who fit this same bill. Oliver Stone, Tim Burton, Spike Lee, and Quentin Tarantino have all at least started without studio backing, and as each of them achieved success they have arguably become more by-the-books once real money was thrown their way. Another question was then posed; even if these directors have blurred the line between studio and independent film, are they still auteurs? Someone then cited Hitchcock, who undoubtedly redefined horror and suspense throughout his career but still received regular studio backing for his films. We then watched another clip from Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, in which a multitude of rather unsettling Fascist parallels with our own time hide under the surface of a hokey plot dealing with humans-vs.-aliens. Ultimately, it was argued that perhaps an artist’s hand can still exist inside of your standard big-budget hollywood popcorn movie.
We then discussed Katherine Bigelow and her 1991 film, Point Break. In the Lane reading, it was argued that Bigelow herself was, in fact, an auteur. The class identified that while she plays with genre like many other independent auteurs of the 1990’s, her themes more prominently grapple with the opposition between a modern, developed world and the natural, ecological one for which we were originally designed. With that in mind, the class examined the gender roles at play in Point Break. While many of the males fit the “hard body” image commonly seen throughout the 1980’s, the female lead is somewhat androgynous and in many ways begins as a genuinely strong character until the end of the film in which she devolves into the commonplace damsel in distress. Ultimately, perhaps what Katherine Bigelow is examining is a battle between the clearly defined roles in human society and the blurred male expectations in a natural, more spiritual world with which our ancestors were so familiar.